5 Element Acupuncture

by Tim Wright – Gower Acupuncture (Swansea)

5 Element Acupuncture

There are two main styles of acupuncture; Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and Five Element acupuncture. Whilst TCM looks for external causes of disease, such as Damp, Wind or Cold to create illness, the 5 element system assumes all illness comes from an inherent imbalance in energy. This energy is split into 5 elements of Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood.

The five elements system of medicine is an exploration of relationships between each element. Each element can be in excess or deficient. It is the goal of the 5 element practitioner to help the patient to balance all 5 elements, getting the patient back to equilibrium and health.

A full exploration of each of these elements is well beyond my 500 word limit and is the subject of numerous wordy books. However I’ll do my best to briefly explain each element:



The Fire Element represents summer. It’s hot, erratic and has an upward flow. Within us humans the fire element governs temperature regulation, is responsible for joy, communication and relationships. Out of balance the Fire element can manifest in problems with temperature regulation, low mood, mania and feelings of isolation, sometimes oscillating between being very sociable and isolated.

The Earth element is all about nourishment. In balance this element creates support and a feeling of being grounded. Appropriate sympathy is given and received in equal amounts.

The Earth element out of balance may overeat to fill emotional voids, seek excess sympathy or be excessively caring to the detriment of his/her own health in a subconscious desire to be recognized and supported more.


The Metal element is the energy of autumn. It is about contraction and letting go – of relationships, ideas, nostalgia. Out of balance this element may manifest almost impossibly high standards – being imposed both on selves and others. There may also be a pining for the gold old days – because the reality of every day and the frustration of never being “good” enough is easily trumped by memories that naturally become more glorious with the passing of time.


Water can oscillate between two extreme forms, a still stagnant pond to a raging river, perhaps one of the most destructive forces in nature.  So it is in humanity with the Water element.

Out of balance the element can be extremely driven, or manifest a complete lack of drive. A Water imbalance can obscure connection to wisdom and the ability to lead a full and engaging life. Relationship with money is a good metaphor for a person’s wisdom and how they use their life resources.  Stinginess is representative of being slightly frozen and unwilling to engage in a full life. Conversely reckless spending and borrowing is representative of a reckless use of life resources – be that laziness or extreme risk taking.


The wood element is concerned with vision and empowerment. In balance the Wood element overcomes obstacles. Like bam-boo it is both strong and flexible. Out of balance the element can get frustrated with obstacles and react with either apathy or extreme anger. Although this anger is directed outwards at the frustrating event/obstacle it is an outward display of deep dissatisfaction with lack of empowerment and ability to achieve important life goals.  

The key to leading a purposeful life lies in understanding your dominant element – the one that rules

major life decisions. In doing this you can learn to understand what drives your decisions, motivations and relationships.

If this article has whetted your appetite you can read more here:

Gower Acupuncture practicing at The Lazy Frog, 1 Uplands Terrace, Uplands, Swansea SA2 0GU

Tel: 07764 254881

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